Timeframes are always a question people ask about the Florida probate process. How long will the entire process take? How much time should be spent on each aspect of settling an estate? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer. It depends on the type of estate administration, the county in which the probate is taking place, and the complexity of the estate. However, approximate timelines based on the estate type are discussed below.
In Florida, the probate process is intended to be used to pay creditors and transfer assets to heirs. It is a legal process in which a probate court reviews the will, appoints a personal representative, and handles the overall administration and closing of an estate. Generally, any asset or property in the decedent’s sole name must go through probate in Florida. There are ways to avoid probate by retitling assets or naming payable on death beneficiaries, but if an individual passes away without taking these estate planning measures, probate will be required.
Most people associate probate court with continuous hurdles and stressors that exacerbate the condition of grieving families. However, not all probate administrations are long, drawn out, and stressful.
The two main categories of probate in Florida are summary and formal probate administration. By knowing which type your or your loved one’s estate qualifies for, a more accurate timeframe can be provided.
Summary probate administration is the less complicated of the two types of Florida probate, although that is not to suggest that it is simple.
A probate estate may qualify for this type of administration if:
- It is valued at less than $75,000 (this does not include exempt assets such as homestead property); OR
- The decedent has been dead for more than two years.
The length of a summary administration probate can be as short as one month, though it may be longer depending on the number of heirs, the amount of assets, and whether there are any creditor claims that must be dealt with.
There are distinct advantages to this method of estate administration, including:
- Cost savings
- Faster completion
- No need for a personal representative; and
- Less paperwork involved.
It may seem as though this is the preferred method of estate administration, but there are disadvantages. Summary probate administration does not allow for a formal asset inventory, meaning surviving loved ones are responsible for this task. Summary administration also does not involve the appointment of a personal representative, which may actually save time if there are many heirs or creditors involved. Also, a personal representative is required if the estate is seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Summary probate administration rules are set forth in the Florida statutes and probate rules. These rules set forth the process and guidelines for summary administration in Florida, which include:
- Filing a petition for administration to open the estate;
- Petitioning for homestead determination;
- Submitting court-required affidavits;
- Having the will admitted to probate (if there is one);
- Filing the decedent’s death certificate;
- Requesting an order to distribute the assets; and
- Provide financial institutions with a certified copy of the order.
When most people think about probate, it is a formal probate administration that they have in mind. This type of probate is often a complex process involving numerous steps and moving parts. The first step is usually to file the will with the probate court and file a petition for administration. In this type of Florida probate, a personal representative is named.
This is the person that is mainly responsible for settling the estate. The length of probate in the formal administration process is often much longer than in summary administration due to the increased tasks and complexity. For example, a personal representative must:
- Identify creditors;
- Notify known creditors and publish a legal notice (if the deceased passed away less than two years ago);
- Have the will admitted to probate (if there is one);
- Review creditor claims;
- Identify and inventory assets;
- File taxes for the estate (if required);
- Keep detailed records of all actions taken;
- File an accounting (unless waived by the heirs); and
- Distribute assets appropriately.
Formal probate administration takes an average of six to nine months, though it may take longer depending on several factors, including the cooperation of heirs, the number of assets, and the number of creditors involved. When you feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of tasks and the possibility that probate could take years, working with an experienced Florida probate lawyer can be helpful to alleviate these concerns. Call Farshchian Law for a free consultation at (305) 901-5628 or (239) 935-8599. Or email us at: Info@JFRealEstateLaw.com.